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Letters and Politics - May 1, 2012 at 10:00am

Letters and Politics, for May 1, 2012 - 10:00am

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Letters and Politics

May Day round table with folks from Occupy Los Angeles, San Francsico & Oakland and immigrant rights organizers and journalists.

Hosted by Mitch Jesrich.

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For a transcript of the John

For a transcript of the John Hamilton segment, which includes an interview with Clarence Thomas of Million Worker March, Occupy Oakland, and a former officer with ILWU Local 10, please visit

“Media Reader”

“Media Reader” makes excellent points about citizen journalism, solidarity, and perspective.

From where I sit, citizen journalism is admirable and effective. Although contributing monetarily to KPFA and public radio is marvelous, sometimes it’s not enough. Next time we witness a notable event, we can document it and share it with our local public radio station, Media Roots, and/or the world. I understand Cathy’s frustration; we can channel that frustration into positive action that benefits us all.

Solidarity between Occupy and unions is particularly significant. Workers struggles have spanned centuries and we all benefit from them today. If we’re going to stick with the monetary system, then we need to recognize how far we’ve come and how many men, women, and children have sacrificed to get where we are today. Without appreciation and support for workers’ rights, U.S. corporations will continue to increase automation, cut jobs domestically, exploit cheap labor overseas, and stiff our working men and women. I am excited to see where the blend of Occupy and unions goes from here!

Finally, I am also not sure why people are frustrated with KPFA taking an historical perspective on today’s issues. We can always learn from history. What some might call “lecturing,” I call dialogue; KPFA opens the discussion and we respond in our own ways. I recommend the book “No Logo,” by Naomi Klein if anyone seeks greater perspective regarding the struggle of the working class and the lengths corporations will go to suppress basic decency in the workplace.

Many thanks to Cathy and “Media Reader” for contributing to my education.

Much love,

Media Roots - Sorry, but

Media Roots - Sorry, but listening to Bill Fletcher natter on about the 1930's while people were being arrested in front of my face in 2012 was totally surreal and alienating.

Definitely. That surreal

Definitely. That surreal feeling is the same one I had (where I had the honour of shaking hands with John Densmore of The Doors, who performed, and Angela Davis, who spoke) at a massive Mumia Abu Jamal rally years ago, maybe even a decade ago--it must have been tens of thousands out--and then to turn on my radio and KPFA was broadcasting the usual weekend music programming. I, too, felt completely alienated and let down. KPFA has a long way to go before it realises its full potential, including featuring audio/video reports on its website from their well-informed and conscientious listeners. Thanks so much for your dialogue, Cathy.

It is a little surreal

It is a little surreal sitting in downtown Oakland with the sirens screaming while KPFA broadcasts some guy yammering on about labor unions. Please try to wake up, KPFA. The vast majority of Americans aren't in labor unions. We need coverage of our struggles, not spokespeople talking about the ideal working peoples movement in their mind. Look at the streets and stop lecturing us on crap.

Actually, Cathy, the Morning

Actually, Cathy, the Morning Mix during the 8 o’clock hour broadcast correspondents live from the streets in various locations of the SF Bay Area and the Los Angeles area, as did this broadcast (and I’m sure was done throughout the day). If you happen to be in a spot with major political action underway, I recommend you try to document it somehow and contribute it to KPFA and elsewhere. Remember, after all, KPFA is something like 80% volunteer-driven and made up of everyday people like you and I. If one doesn’t have audio or video recording capability, one can always use the written word, which has served humans well for thousands of years to communicate news and information. We need citizen journalists, such as you, to report what’s really going on for those who can’t be out there. So, we can’t wake up KPFA, per se, because we are KPFA.

Now, I usually don’t defend Letters and Politics because they usually lack a bold electoral analysis, or an analysis of the rigged de facto two-party system, in favor of Democrat Party (DP) apologism or just always letting the DP off the hook by not consistently connecting the role progressives play in enabling the status quo through abstention or directly voting for the DP. But with this particular broadcast, the focus on labor issues and dynamics stems from the fact the day itself was May Day (aka International Worker’s Day) and the Occupy Movement decisions to join rank-and-file picket lines, instead of an attempt to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, as Clarence Thomas (of ILWU Local 10 and Million Worker March) explained.

With all due respect, workers struggles are our issues. The lack of solidarity with workers, including the under- and un-employed, in the USA reflects a lack of class consciousness. This contributes to the general atomization of progressives and activists into single-issue fetishization, which says nothing about the power of democratic elections (even under our screwed up system). This abandons the power of the progressives, as a voting bloc, and allows us to fall prey to the false promises of the DP (again, through abstention or directly voting for the DP). We must bear in mind, democratic elections are the prime avenue by which the citizenry has toward legal-political participation, as opposed to cultural-political participation (such as protesting, which is also important, but doesn’t carry the same legal weight of consequence as does voting a political party in or out of office).

Unions have long played a crucial role in enabling the status quo because, in the USA, they have long sold out to the Democrat Party, which takes their votes for granted during elections, but then sells them out once in office every time. This has been made possible because of the marginalization of unions and labor issues, even at progressive outlets like KPFA. We seldom pay attention to labor issues, so unions have become business unions, rather than truly progressive rank-and-file driven organizations. If the vast majority of the citizenry is not affiliated or associated with a union, it makes it all the more reason to discuss it on KPFA.

The funny thing about spokespeople, Julia, is that they’re impossible to avoid. Technically, we’re all spokespeople—you for your view, me for mine, interviewers and interviewees for theirs. It’s a fallacy to say it’s possible to broadcast anyone who is not a spokesperson. Objectivity in journalism, too, is a fallacy. It’s important to express one’s ideals and principles. This is how we understand one another—first the theory, then the political discourse, then the action or policy.

You say, Cathy, “Look at the streets and stop lecturing us on crap.” I won’t dwell on the fact you are lecturing people for lecturing. But I will say, even if a reporter or broadcaster chose to simply broadcast a street action with only the general sound of the street’s cacophony or describe a particular action without discussing theory or political ideas, a theory or political idea is being represented, even by that act alone. But if you feel like you’re being lectured, Cathy, perhaps it’s because you are. And if you feel offended by it or unsettled, perhaps it’s because it’s offensive or unsettling. But just because we are offended or unsettled doesn’t mean the lecture or speech or dialogue we are hearing is regressive. Perhaps, it’s a sign of arrogance or narrow-mindedness for us to claim we have nothing to learn or we know it all.

People often complain if a work of art or music or play is didactic, as if we know it all. And, yet, at the same time, we celebrate figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi who were nothing if not didactic or preachy. It’s just that we fetishize certain people as worthy of free speech, while we downgrade our neighbors and everyday communications.

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